There are a number of requirements which come with being a northerner – some would say that they are enshrined in law.
It doesn’t matter where you move to in the country – or the world for that matter – being a northerner is something of an occupation for those of us born north of Stoke-on-Trent, and we wear our heritage with pride.
That pride manifests itself in the way that we live our lives – a regular fry-up is mandatory, as is pouring gravy on top of chips, before putting them inside a butty.
A taste for black pudding or anything with a pastry lid is also built into all northerners, as is the ability to moan with the best of them about the price – not to mention the taste – of ale anywhere in the south of England.
But what really sets us apart from much of the country is our penchant for overfamiliarity as you don’t have to go very far in the north of England before being addressed as ‘love’ or ‘sweetheart’ by a complete stranger.
Be it in your place of work, at the bar of your local pub and even down the supermarket, there is every chance you will be greeted informally at least once a day. Being called ‘sweetheart’, ‘duck’, ‘pet’ and even ‘darling’ is something that I have grown up with and, as a consequence, have never really had a problem with.
In my experience, this type of greeting is genuine and serves as the antithesis of corporate Britain, where workers appear to read from cue cards when greeting customers and members of the general public.
It reminds me of a bygone age, before the advent of political correctness, where warm sentiments weren’t mistaken for a lack of respect, which is sadly the case today.
Last week it was reported how a female supermarket shopper had boycotted this particular chain after being fed up with being called ‘sweetheart’ and ‘babe’ by a woman working on a checkout. After complaining, she claims that she was told she could chose to be served by somebody else if she didn’t like it.
And that was that, the shopper in question says that she will never set foot inside that supermarket or any one of its hundreds of sister stores across the country.
There are many reasons why somebody should boycott a business or product – connection with an oppressive regime or a toenail in the coleslaw would do it for me. But being addressed in an overfamiliar way? The need to get a life is required.
We live in an age where our youngsters are more at home with a screen and headphones than they are with a firm handshake and eye contact, so it is reassuring that there are millions of people who use a term of endearment to greet others – even if they don’t know them from Adam.
Of course, there are always exceptions. I get the hump whenever a snotty-nosed toerag – usually one who has cold called me to tell me about an accident I haven’t had – calls me ‘mate’. But that situation is usually dealt with by a curt reply of ‘you aren’t my mate’ rather than a complaint to management or a boycott of their services, should I need them.
We need to remember that there are far worse things which we could be called.